The 17th of June is Blumesday, a concept created by writers Joanna Miller and Heather Larimer, to celebrate the work of Judy Blume. Blume is famous for writing books for young adults about the perils of growing up, and when I was younger, I loved her books. I read them in the 90’s, 20 years after many of them were first published, but the issues she wrote about were just as relevant to me as they were to the youngsters who first read her books in the 70’s and 80’s, and they will be just as relevant today.
Often, Blume’s books were banned from schools and libraries because they were thought to be too controversial, particularly back when they first hit the shelves. She was unafraid to tackle subjects that might be seen as too much for young adults to read about, such as racism, death, bullying, puberty, teen sex, divorce, disability. But to me, her stories always felt so realistic it was easy to see how she came up with the characters, and not at all difficult to imagine them being real children, tackling these kinds of issues, because they are issues that real children face.
It’s difficult to pick a favourite, not least because I read so many. But the ones that stand out are the ones that really do stare difficult issues in the face – Iggie’s House, about a girl who makes some new friends and doesn’t know why all the grown ups seem so bothered by the fact they are black; Deenie, a girl who finds out she has a problem with her spine and how she copes with it; and Tiger Eyes, dealing with the troubles faced by a girl and her family after her father is shot and killed, and they must move away from their old lives to start afresh.
When I learned about Blumesday, I also found out that Tiger Eyes, first published in 1981, has now been made into a film. It will be difficult to guess whether this will be marketed at a young teen audience, or as a piece of nostalgia for those older women who remember the book as a fond part of their adolescence. Either way, I think I would like to see it.